The Forks addresses Canada Day backlash


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After days of controversy related to its decision to remove Canada Day references from July 1 celebrations, The Forks has issued a statement saying it never intended to eliminate the idea of Canada Day.

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After days of controversy related to its decision to remove Canada Day references from July 1 celebrations, The Forks has issued a statement saying it never intended to eliminate the idea of Canada Day.

Instead, in a statement posted on its website Friday, the board says The Forks simply wants to reimagine the celebration at the historic gathering place.

After days of support and criticism from citizens to mayoral candidates, to former federal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy, the board admitted “controversy has arisen over the plans for a reimagined Canada Day at The Forks.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Gathering at The Forks for Canada Day has become a Winnipeg tradition. To much debate, the board of the landmark location has announced it wants to reimagine the local celebration at the historic gathering place.

“This new day of programming, developed by management and fully supported by the board of directors, represents Canada Day as a new and important day where everyone can participate in many rich multicultural experiences throughout the site that reflect our diverse city and our country.

“The Forks never intended to minimize or eliminate the idea of Canada Day but use it as an opportunity to reimagine how we recognize and celebrate the day together. It is a celebration of The Forks as a historic gathering place, combined with many accessible ways for everyone to learn about our past and how we can continue to build a better country for the future.”

The board, which is chaired by Fort Garry Hotel owner Rick Bel, and includes David Asper, RRC Polytechnical spokesman Conor Lloyd, and Catholic Health Corp. of Manitoba CEO Daniel Lussier, said it is “very mindful” the name for the July 1 holiday was switched to Canada Day, from Dominion Day, after Canada repatriated its Constitution in 1982, and adopted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The board, which didn’t say if the July 1 event would be named Canada Day again, did say while there would be no fireworks this year, it would review that decision for next year’s celebration.

No one from The Forks could be reached for comment.

The statement by The Forks brought praise from Premier Heather Stefanson and Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke.

The pair issued said they “applaud” the statement by The Forks’ board which they say is “reinforcing the importance of Canada Day as part of celebrations at this critical meeting place in Manitoba.

“The Manitoba government recognizes the need for constant efforts for reconciliation with Indigenous people and to provide a welcoming province to newcomers. We encourage all Manitobans to get out and celebrate Canada Day in their communities, and enjoy a safe long weekend.”

When the decision was announced, The Forks said it was made following round table discussions with the community, specifically Indigenous Peoples, newcomers and youth.

According to The Forks’ website, the events on July 1 begin at 8 a.m., with a morning celebration led by Indigenous elders at the Oodena and the Gathering Space in Niizhoziibean at the site.

There will be family-friendly, multicultural entertainment throughout The Forks site between 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., while a pre-recorded Manitoba Music playlist will play on speakers at the CN Field and Stage, where food trucks and picnic tables will be set up, until the day’s events wrap up at 6 p.m.

The Manitoba African Cup of Nations Soccer Tournament will be played all afternoon at the site while traditional and contemporary Indigenous games there will encourage participation.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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